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Stab a Panda Kickstarter Preview

Quick Look:

Designer: Jeremiah Lee, Brian Lewis
Artist: Neko Pilarcik (and others)
Publisher: Gozer Games, LLC

Year Published: 2018
No. of Players: 4-8
Ages: 13+, and 17+ for Not Safe For Work (NSFW) Expansion
Playing Time: 15-45 minutes

Find more info on BoardGameGeek.com

WARNING: This is a preview of Stab a Panda. All components and rules are prototype and subject to change.


Reviewer's note: The review copy came with the Stab A Panda base game and a set of NSFW cards that I think to be an expansion of the base game. This review (i.e. game play, artwork, good/bad) focuses on the base game and does not include the NSFW cards that were included in the reviewer copy. I reviewed aspects of the NSFW cards separately and included my thoughts at the conclusion of this review.

Setup and Game Play: Stab A Panda is a simple would-you-rather ranking game. Players all receive individual colored cards numbered 1-4. Each turn, one player assumes the role of the "Panda." The Panda is in charge of ranking the situational cards they receive from the other players on a scale from 1 (yes, I would do it) through 4 (nope). The other players attempt to guess how the Panda will rank the cards and score points for correct guesses.

Eight sets of numbered cards for ranking. 
Starting to the immediate left of the Panda, players draw two cards each (in games with four players or less, the first two players to the left of the Panda draw four cards). Of the two (or four cards) the players draw, they choose one (or two if four cards are drawn) for the Panda to have to rank, and the other cards are put into a discard pile. The Panda receives the four cards from the players, shuffles them, and then places them face up on the table, reading the scenarios aloud (e.g. "farting glitter" and "be inducted into a dolphin gang") for the other players to hear.

Players draw two cards, select one to give to the Panda, and discard the other.

Each player then secretly ranks how they think the Panda will rank the choices by placing their numbered cards face down in front of them. The Panda also ranks their choices by placing their numbered cards in front of them. When everyone has placed their numbered cards, the Panda and other players reveal their answers from left to right, one at a time. Players score one point for each match, and the Panda scores one point for every player that guesses all four correctly. The scores are tracked on the scoreboard. After each player has had a turn as the Panda, the game ends, and the player with the highest score wins.

The orange player as the Panda ranks the four scenarios.

Artwork and Components: Stab A Panda consists of over 100 different Scenario cards, each with unique artwork depicting said scenario. The "panda" theme is prevalent throughout, even using anthropomorphic pandas instead of people in the artwork. The art adds to the humor of the scenarios by helping the players visualize the choice. This is one of the factors that differentiates Stab A Panda from other text-on-cards type games. More on this under "The Good."

Examples of scenarios in Stab A Panda.

Some cards reference real people, and though they are still represented as pandas, you can easily tell who the celebrity panda is supposed to be. It's one thing to be able to draw a celebrity that looks like them, but it's another to draw a panda that looks like them!

Scoreboard after a few rounds of play.

Back of card and example of a celebrity turned panda.

The Good: I have played so many variations of what all seem like the same game - players secretly select a card with some sort of witty (or shocking) text and slide it to the judge, who then selects a winner from their options. I was pleasantly surprised that Stab A Panda, though similar to many text-on-cards-type games, was different. It took the secrecy of players selecting a card and added a ranking mechanic that all players participate in. This difference, however slight, was enough for me to feel like I was playing something unique from the stale formula of Apples to Apples and Cards Against Humanity.

The orange player as the Panda ranked the four options. The white player matched two for two points.

I also feel like I have played so many variations of the would-you-rather genre, but Stab A Panda still adds something that feels different. It has been my experience that would-you-rather questions fall into one of two camps - the choice between two great things (e.g. would you rather go to he beach or to the mountains) or two terrible choices that no person should ever have to choose from. Stab A Panda moves away from the all easy choices version of would-you-rather but doesn't swing all the way to the other extreme, either. The choices toe the line of being difficult (and sometimes gross), but they don't rely on cheap shock tactics or extreme scenarios. The choices are interesting because the scenarios are creative and clever, instead of lazy attempt at creating a disturbing scenario for nothing more than the disturbance of the player.

The final thing that I thought differentiated Stab A Panda from other would-you-rather games is that in my experience, other games are presented as either/or decisions. You either go to the beach or you go to the mountains. You either eat pizza forever or tacos forever. They required a decision that eliminated one of the choices, and this made some selections easier for some players; if a player didn't like tomato sauce, it would be easy for them to choose tacos. That is not the case with Stab A Panda. There is no either/or option; you have to do W and X and Y and Z. You don't like tomato sauce? Tough. You still have to consider where it would rank compared to things that may be equally unappealing. The forced ranking made for some interesting conversation and "fun stress" for some of the players.  

The Bad: Though different from Apples to Apples and would-you-rather games, it is faced with some of the same problems - the choices presented on the cards become stale and lose any shock value after repeated exposure. Once you have seen a card and contemplated how much you would be willing to do it/not do it, the decision is easier the next time it's played, and if it comes up again, its placement requires little thought.

This causes problems for the guessers, as well. I played this game several times with different groups, but my wife was part of all of them. Since I had played it with her so many times, she would get cards to judge that I had already seen her judge in previous games, and I knew that a card would definitely be a "nope." (You may be thinking, "She's your wife, you should know that already," but of the 16 years we have been together, I can't think of a time where we discussed her willingness to eat her neighbor's boogers.) The reason that I knew that was a "nope" was because she had received the card in a previous game and made it clear that she would not eat boogers. The more you play, the less replayability it seems to have. Though this could be rectified by putting the game on the shelf and picking it up again after a few weeks.

Some rankings are easier than others.

That being said, I see this "bad" thing more as an opportunity for the designers. Though the game can feel repetitive after several rounds of play, it is prime for expansions, and fans of the game would likely be clamoring for more. 

Final Thoughts: This may be the manager in me, but I like would-you-rather-type icebreakers. I like using them with new co-workers, as they are a lighthearted, less-intrusive way of learning more about people. I would need to take a few cards out that are questionable for a work setting (e.g. the scenario about assless chaps), but I can see Stab A Panda being a go-to icebreaker for small groups. It invites discussion, allows for simultaneous play, and relies on its creativity to create difficult decisions rather than cheap shock tactics.

I also enjoyed playing this with my family (which is something I cannot say about other white-text-on-black-cards-type games). Though marketed as an "adult party game" on the website, I didn't get an "adult game" feel. After removing some of the more PG-13 cards, I had no issue playing it with my six year old. She was able to read the scenarios, most of which made her giggle more than gag, and fully participate. It was a relief to hear that she had no desire to pierce her tongue.

Overall, I feel that Stab A Panda is great at what it is: a simple 20-minute would-you-rather game with an interesting wrinkle of rank-based judging and simultaneous guessing. It didn't try to lazily emulate another game, but took what worked from the genre and applied its own creativity. It will never take the place of a strategy game with your gaming group, but it wasn't designed to. What it may replace is the scenario-text-on-cards casual party game that you play with certain groups as it gives the genre fresh legs, and it may serve as a welcome reprieve from similar games that are growing old to you. For some, it just might be a game to supplement a popular white-text-on-black-cards game, which brings me to...   

The NSFW: As mentioned above, the reviewer copy came with a NSFW deck. These were packaged separately from the other cards, which led me to think that these cards are not part of the base game, but instead an expansion to be sold separately. Either way, you wouldn't want to accidentally leave these cards mixed in with the main deck only to find them later when you were playing with your family or co-workers.

The most safe for work of the NSFW cards. The card backs are the same.

I am not a huge fan of NSFW or "After Dark" variants of games. They're just not my thing. That being said, I am not going to knock the game because of my personal preferences of this type of humor, because I know that there is a market for that type of thing. After all, it may not be for me, but it may be for you.

While the NSFW cards are graphic in nature (they differ from the base cards as they depict humans, rather than pandas), I didn't find them necessarily offensive. To clarify, they were all sexual (e.g. watching an adult movie starring your parents, attaching a weight to your genitals, etc.), but the players in my different groups didn't get the "rapey" vibe that I have heard female players use to describe other white-text-on-black-cards-style games. The dark humor was from the cards and illustrations themselves, not from the coupling of the cards with other joke set-up cards that makes something simple turn into something nefarious. So, in a nutshell, graphic but not shockingly offensive.

That being said, it has been my experience with other adult-themed games that the sexual situations are both hypothetical and also unknown to the characters on the card - for example, if I had to choose between french kissing my grandmother or getting a hickey from the president of MadeUpIstan (neither of which are choices in the game), my choice would never be known to my sweet grandmother or the president. That is where Stab A Panda differs. Some of the choices you have to make are about the people sitting to your left or right. They will know your thoughts on hypothetical sexual situations with them. With the right crowd, this shouldn't be an issue, but if faced with four terrible choices and a female players elects that the best option is to hypothetically do something sexual with the male player on her right (even though there is no sexual attraction or desire to actually perform the act), the male player could get the wrong idea at worst, and at the very least he's now thinking about it. Conversely, if a player says "nope" to such a card, feelings could get hurt depending how passionately the person rejected their neighbor. Personally, I would err on the side of caution and just remove the "player to the left/right" cards from the deck. This will eliminate the potential for any misread signals or hurt feelings. Of course, you know your gaming group better than anyone, and if this type of thing could go bad, I trust that you will use your best judgement.    

Players Who Like: Would You Rather...?, You Gotta Be Kidding!, ice breaker exercises in general, Apples to Apples, Cards Against Humanity.

I am rating it as different enough to not feel the same.

Check out Stab A Panda on:

https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/143983/stab-panda   http://www.stabapanda.com/   https://www.facebook.com/groups/StabAPanda/about/   https://twitter.com/stabapanda?lang=en  

Coming to KICKSTARTER April 3, 2018.

About the Author:
Nick is a compliance consultant by day, a board gamer at night, and a husband and father always. When he is not bringing a game to the table, he is running (most often to or from his kids) or watching the New York Yankees. You can track what Nick is playing by following him on Twitter @ndshipley.
Stab a Panda Kickstarter Preview Stab a Panda Kickstarter Preview Reviewed by Nick Shipley on March 26, 2018 Rating: 5

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